Asad Zaidi on the dark prophetic voice of Muktibodh, one of the key modern poets of India
Yesterday was the birth anniversary and the beginning of the centenary year of Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh (1917-1964), beloved Hindi poet, fiction writer and critic, who should count among the greatest of thinkers and culture personalities of modern India. His impact on Hindi literature was as transformational as that of Ghalib in Urdu or Pushkin in Russian literature. One can only remember him with great sadness and wonder what he would have thought of the situation we are in today.
I fancy every stone
Has in it a shining diamond
In every breast lives a restless soul
Every smile hides an eternal spring
I fancy every voice conceals An epic suffering…
In a short span of three years so much has happened.
From the violence perpetrated upon Muslims in Muzaffarnagar and their large-scale displacement to the recent demonetisation of 86% currency, not to speak of the whole theatre of cruelty staged so frequently and widely in between, the ruling classes in India have played around with a large gamut of possibilities in order to force an unprecedented national crisis. Using the well developed weapons and strategies of Hindutva politics they are well on their way to dismantle the Constitutional order, representative institutions of liberal democracy, education and culture.
The forces that need to call for and lead resistance and popular protest against the fascist take-over are defaulting. Their refusal to take cognizance of the situation, or even read it, has affected their will to lead. They simply occupy the political stage without wanting to do anything. In the meanwhile, the fear of the security apparatus of the state and the private fascist militias has so fragmented their consciousness and killed their initiative that they seem to concede to them the sole right to speak on behalf the ‘Nation’, and seem anxious to prove their nationalist credentials every time they come under pressure from the Right. They stand apart from the people they are supposed to represent.
I am so distanced from you people
My inspirations are so different from yours
What is poison for you, is my nourishment.
The poor, the deprived and the oppressed in India were never as unsafe and helpless before. The political vacuum they live in today only suggests that the ground is clear for fascists to take over, and claim that they represent popular will.
So many souls, so many hands, so much intellect
So much knowledge, culture and purity
So much divinity, such magnificence, such power
This beauty, that novelty, piety
So much poetry, so many words, so many meters –
The hypocrisy to match and unrestrained consumption
So deep, thick and charming a tangle –
To only wish away a burning truth.